The Retro-Hugo Awards

A Brief Introduction to 1938 Fandom
by Joe Siclari

A version of this article was first published in a booklet distributed by Loncon 3 at the Hugo ceremony at LoneStarCon 3, the 2013 Worldcon.

1938 was a very active year for many Legends of Science Fiction… as fans. Forrest J Ackerman, Ted Carnell, Arthur C Clarke, Sam Moskowitz, Frederik Pohl, Donald A Wollheim, along with Maurice K Hanson, Robert A Madle, Jack Speer, William F Temple, and Harry Warner Jr. These and many others were typical of the (mostly) young men who were active fans that year.

This was a year of some fannish controversy in the United States – as could be inferred from the title of Sam Moskowitz’s history of the period, The Immortal Storm (available from NESFA Press). In the United Kingdom, fans felt it was a year of organising and structuring the future of science fiction fandom. Fandom in the rest of the world was nascent or virtually non-existent.

At the start of the year, fans were getting excited by conventions. The first conventions in both the UK and in the US had been held. More conventions were held in 1938, and a plan had developed to have a “World” Science Fiction Convention in 1939 to coincide with the World’s Fair in New York City. At the start of the year, the Futurians (Wollheim, Pohl, John Michel, and others) were supposed to be running it; by the end of the year, the convention was being run by a different New York area group led by Sam Moskowitz, James Taurasi and Will Sykora. Many short and pointed fanzines were published on each side of this quarrel.

Despite this difficulty, many worthwhile fanzines were published on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, the most prominent and longest running of these was Novae Terrae, edited by Maurice K Hanson with help from other prominent fans of the period. In Novae Terrae, you would find regular profiles of fans and pros by William F Temple; Arthur C Clarke contributed poetry and an article on fantastic poetry. Numerous others from both sides of the pond contributed to the zine. Tomorrow, from Douglas Mayer, was a more sercon fanzine published for the Science Fiction Association. Filled with critical and scientific articles, it mirrored a different aspect of fandom. Other major fanzines included the critical Scientifiction from Walter Gillings, and John F Burke’s The Satellite, which published fiction and other material by such as Charles Eric Maine and C S Youd.

In the USA, more fanzines were published, of course, commensurate with the larger numbers of fans. Two major newsletters were published, by Richard Wilson (Science Fiction News Letter)and by James Taurasi (Fantasy News). Taurasi may have been the publishing giant of the year; he also published hundreds of pages in dozens of issues. Although the major fanzine, Fantasy Magazine, folded the year before, 1938 contained six issues of Fantascience Digest, a hectographed zine from Robert A Madle. Other regularly published fanzines included Morris Scott Dollens’ Science Fiction Collector, Ackerman’s Imagination (published for the Los Angeles Science Fiction League), and 16 issues of Olon F Wiggins’ Science Fiction Fan. A few major zines were also started, especially Harry Warner Jr’s Spaceways, Jack Speer’s Full Length Articles and Bob Tucker’s Le Zombie.

Several of what we would now call semipro-type publications came out from Claire Beck’s Futile Press, William Crawford and Lany Coop, including The Hyborian Age by Robert E Howard and The Commonplace Book by H P Lovecraft.

A number of 1938 fanzines are already online; more will be added over the coming months so that you will have a chance to evaluate the fanzines, fan writers and fan artists from 1938.

© Joe Siclari, 2013.